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Drink and Sleep… Lose Your License

01.28.09

Reading this article by Glenn Greenwald jogged my memory of something that still irks me:

The lopsidedness between what constitutes a DUI and the legal and social penalties associated with such a conviction.

As a disclaimer off the bat, I do not condone drunk driving.  I have no intention of minimizing the offense.

That being said, the system is far from perfect.  One of my closest friends went to a party one night.  After several drinks, he was unable to drive himself home; however, the party was ending and he needed to leave.  It was freezing cold outside and snowing and he decided that he would just sit in his car and sleep for a few hours until he was sober enough to drive.  He got in his front seat, turned on the engine to keep warm, reclined the seat, and dozed off.  He woke up to the rapping of a police nightstick against his window and was subsequently arrested and charged with a DUI: DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE.

I’ve been told that you can actually be arrested for a DUI by simply opening the driver’s side door to a car while inebriated.  If we’re going to crack down this hard on the combination of alcohol and auto vehicles, we need more of a hierarchy of punishment that relates to the infraction.  Someone sleeping in their running car while drunk does not deserve the same legal and financial sanctions as someone who actually endangered lives by driving drunk.  It doesn’t make any sense.  As it is, someone can be penalized for using good judgment.

I understand that the idea is to deter people from even thinking about their car once they’ve been drinking.  But we all know that life is not as black and white as the law tries to be.  And if the goal is to deter people from getting into alcohol-related accidents, then it would stand to reason that if you’re not physically driving, you won’t be causing any.

The punishments for DUIs are far-ranging and long-lasting.  It can include jail-time, thousands of dollars in fines, manadatory substance-abuse meetings, and loss of driving priviledges.  These are necessary in many cases, especially in those involving repeat offenders and accidents.  If those punishments are to fit the crime, though, we need to rethink just what it takes to warrant receiving a DUI in the first place. Not all DUIs are created equal.

Let’s create a new level of infraction, such as an Intent to Commit a DUI.  The reprimand would need to be determined later but would include a smaller fine, no jail time, no risk of losing your licence.  It would certainly be less than that of physically driving drunk.  Otherwise, what’s the point in making the conscious decision not to drive?  Might as well risk making it home safe instead of sleeping in the cold on the side of the road when the penalty would be the same.  That’s doing the opposite of deterring.

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One comment

  1. That still pisses me the fuck off every time I think about it.



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